TN- Sex abuse victims blast Baptist pastor
For immediate release: Wednesday, June 4, 2014
For more information: David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Director (314) 566-9790 cell, [email protected]
Sex abuse victims blast Baptist pastor
He “changes his tune” in child abuse case
Group thinks he should be investigated & charged
Preacher “clearly filed false police report,” SNAP says
Three years after he reported suspected child sex crimes by a church volunteer to police, a Jackson minister went back and tried to “water down” his formal report in an unusual move to apparently try to protect himself and his congregation from civil liability. A civil abuse and cover up case was filed against him and his church last month.
And now a support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging prosecutors to investigate the two very different accounts and possibly charge the minister for making a false police report.
In 2006, Pastor Mark McSwain of First Church in Bemis reported to police that a church volunteer, Chad Lutrell, was inappropriately touching young girls and kissing one on the mouth. He also said that Lutrell was stalking and harassing adult women.
Three years later, however, in 2009, McSwain backtracked from his original statement. McSwain approached police again, this time telling an officer that Lutrell kissed a child on the cheek, not on the mouth. McSwain also denied that Lutrell had inappropriately touched children, and claimed that Lutrell only sent one adult woman an inappropriate email and follower her home.
“It is very suspicious that the pastor changed his tune so much, especially after three years, and in such self-serving ways” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We hope prosecutors will consider filing charges against McSwain for making a false police report.”
“The pastor clearly is trying hard to protect his reputation and his church’s reputation from negative news coverage and civil lawsuits,” said David Clohessy, SNAP's director. “There's really no other possible explanation for his bizarre behavior.”
Last May, Lutrell was arrested for stalking women, after three victims came forward to police. And in 2009, Lutrell was convicted of sexually abusing a ten year old girl. He is a registered sex offender. http://www.wbbjtv.com/news/local/Sex-Offender-Now-Facing-Stalking-Charges-206462401.html
First Baptist church is now being sued for Lutrell’s crimes.
At the time of McSwain's first police report, an officer suggested that McSwain ask the victims if they’d like to file a complaint. But the pastor replied that he was “trying to follow biblical guidelines at this point and did not know what would be done.”
“That's dead wrong. There's nothing 'un-Biblical' about reporting known or suspected child sex crimes to police,” said Clohessy. “It is very 'Biblical' to protect innocent children from harm. McSwain should be investigated for potentially breaking state mandatory reporting laws.”
“Current and former employees and members of First Baptist who knew about or suspected Lutrell’s abuse should be harshly punished for refusing to promptly call police,” Dorris said. “This kind of punishment is the best way to deter such reckless and irresponsible misbehavior in the future.”
SNAP is urging every individual “who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes at First Baptist” to “speak up, protect kids, call police, get help, expose wrongdoers and start healing.”
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)